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Hardcore Punk Is Looking (and Sounding) Different Now

Others struggled to find suitable role models. The Zulu drummer and vocalist Christine Cadette, 23, cited Paramore’s Hayley Williams as a key inspiration. “But also,” she said, “I couldn’t really relate because, at the end of the day, she’s a white cis female, so there’s not really any females that look like me doing exactly that.”

Scout Cartagena, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, reflected on the lack of diversity within the underground that inspired them to start Break Free Fest in 2017. “For a long time, it’s just been a struggle to see people on the stage who looked like me, or were talking about things I cared about,” they said. A typical sight was “some suburban punk white kid, talking about a breakup.” As Cartagena, 30, put it, “I just wanted more.”

That “more” has arrived in waves during the past decade. The short-lived but hugely impactful G.L.O.S.S., from Olympia, Wash., brought a vociferous trans-feminist perspective to hardcore. Zulu situates the genre on the spectrum of progressive Black thought. The band’s 2019 debut EP, “Our Day Will Come,” opened with a sample of Nina Simone discussing the importance of Black pride, and juxtaposed searing blast beats and walloping breakdowns with a snippet of a 1962 Malcolm X speech in which he posed the question “Who taught you to hate yourself?”

On “A New Tomorrow,” both the songs as well as “Créme de Cassis,” a lovely mid-album spoken interlude by the poet Alesia Miller, drive home the importance of celebrating Black joy even when considering Black pain. In “From Tha Gods to Earth,” Lei and Cadette trade off bellowed lines that first look back to slavery (“400 years and still/Here I am/I won’t forget”) but then ahead to a time when “Clouds part and hope seeps through.”

“People think that because we’re in a heavy band, we’re talking about Black struggles, they expect us to be angry about it, but really there’s things that we can enjoy and things that we do celebrate,” Cadette said. “Zulu is not about aggression and all that; it’s about love.”

For Cartagena, Lei’s buoyant performance style is a welcoming beacon. “I say they have the best moves of any frontperson onstage — just, like, sliding and moon walking and just moving their shoulders,” they said. “It just reminds me of my people.”

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